Star Anise, not to be confused with simply Anise, is a spice derived from an evergreen tree native to regions of China and Vietnam. They are easily recognizable with their star shape and chocolate brown hue. Widely used in Asian cooking, Star Anise has lately become popular in western cuisine as well, used as a more cost effective alternative to its cousin, Anise.
Star Anise contains anethole, a phenylpropene found commonly in nature, has a mildly sweet flavor, emanating a very distinctive licorice-like essence. Aromatic and warm, star anise is commonly used to flavor all types of soups and stews in Chinese, Indonesian, Malaysian and Vietnamese cooking. It is also an integral part of Indian cooking as one of the main components of garam masala. Popular Asian recipes that feature star anise include Vietnamese Pho, Chinese Five Spice Eggs and Indonesian Oxtail Soup.
Star Anise’ health benefits may surprise many, being as powerful as they are. Its inherent biology lends to being a natural anti-bacterial, antioxidant, analgesic and sedative. It was a main ingredient in the creation of the anti-influenza drug widely known as Tamiflu.